Millions of us have a well ingrained fear of the dentist, and put off a trip until pain makes it necessary. That could be a bad decision, as not all toothaches are caused by the teeth. Finding and fixing the cause could save your life. Naturally, most toothaches do involve our teeth, and getting them fixed is the best answer to dealing with the pain.

Tooth Decay: There are many factors involved in tooth decay. Heredity, diet and proper hygiene are the top three. If your family has a history of weak teeth, diet and hygiene need to be attended to even more. Ask the dentist to show you how best to brush. Brushing too hard is almost as bad as not brushing them enough, as it can scratch the enamel and let bacteria deeper. To help ease the pain until you get to the dentist, oil of cloves placed on the sore spot could be useful.

One word of warning; there are some studies indicating a link between tooth decay and heart problems. Putting off necessary care could be a life threatening decision.

Gum Disease: This can be caused by improper care, allowing pockets to form. Bacteria fills these pockets and left alone can become bad enough to threaten the jaw bones. Heredity and other diseases may also allow these to form. This is one of the myriad reasons regular checkups and cleaning needs to be done. If it’s caught early, it will prevent a lot of pain and possible facial damage.

TMJ: Temporormandibular joint disorder can cause pain in the teeth and jaw. You may notice a clicking sound when you chew, and chewing could be very difficult. Uneven wear is also possible. There are several treatment options, including surgery. That is usually the last resort.

Sinus Infection: Your sinuses are located above the molars and above the eyes. Allergies and infections can cause them to swell, which puts pressure on the molars. If you look in the mirror and see that your face is puffy in these locations, it may be time to visit your doctor. If an infection is present, antibiotics can help clear it up.

Once diagnosed, there are home remedies you can use, including garlic. Cool compresses may help as well. If there is congestion present, steam from a hot shower could help. You can also mix a quarter cup vinegar with a cup of water. Bring it to a boil and breathe the steam.

Heart Disease: If the pain is only in the left side of your mouth, it could be a sign of a heart attack. Other symptoms may be present, such as pain in the chest, left shoulder, left rib cage and your back. You may feel pressure, your skin could be clammy and it could be difficult to breathe. Under these circumstances, bypass the dentist and call 911. Waiting could kill you.

As you can see, it is preferable to take care of toothaches as early as possible. There is good news for those of us who associate the dentist with pain. New tools, techniques and medications are taking a lot of the pain and side effects away. In fact, dentists now use water drills or lasers rather than the nasty sounding drills of our childhood nightmares.

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